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Running in circles

WITH THE EXCEPTION of a few adventure junkies, nearly everyone has a sport or physical activity they absolutely loath. For some, pulling out leg hairs individually with a pair of tweezers is preferable to hiking; for others, hiking is a terrific, stress-busting workout. Some groan and moan whenever they hear the words “cross-country skiing,” whereas others change into one-piece snowsuits and grab poles within the blink of an eye. Personally, I used to hate running. Key words—used to.

Many years ago, I looked upon jogging with absolute disdain. For me, running served two purposes: Escaping an attacker/rabid dog/zombie, and satisfying the requirements for phys-ed.

In high school, our gym class would go for runs around the perimeter of the school grounds. That sounds like it would be easy, but not when the school is in a particularly hilly neighbourhood. I knew the drill: I would pull off my best Usain Bolt whenever the teacher was watching, and shift to a lazy walk as soon as he or she was out of sight.

Others knew the drill, too. I remember watching some of my classmates climb inside an abandoned shopping cart at the top of a hill during one of our runs in an attempt to pick up some speed and finish the course with minimal effort. Unfortunately, this dream was cut short as soon as the cart began accelerating all the way down the hill toward the river. Clearly, people were willing to go to any lengths to avoid running.

In my last year of high school, I finally realized that my dislike of running was directly linked to the fact that, for years, I had been timed by a gym teacher and ranked in accordance with my classmates. As the kid who was once picked last for soccer-baseball after a classmate with a broken ankle and crutches, I loathed any evaluation of my physical ability.

With a desire to get in shape, I decided to give running another shot—this time on my own terms. There would be no one standing nearby with a clipboard and a stopwatch, and no one speeding by in flashy K Swiss sneakers reminding me they had already lapped me twice. It was just me, my dog, and my tunes.

Fast-forward six years, and I haven’t stopped running. My endurance has improved greatly, and I find running to be extremely therapeutic. I never thought I would hear myself saying that the best way to start my day is with an early morning run along the canal. The adage “never say never” rings true here—if there is a sport or physical activity that you have sworn off for good, give it another shot. You never know what you might discover.

—Sarah Horlick